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I got my first tangible material benefit from blogging the other day (aside from the whopping 5 bucks I've earned from those Google ads). Warren Meyer, over at Coyote Blog, sent me a copy of his first book "BMOC". To be honest, I didn't figure I would write about it unless A) It was really good, or B) It brought up some issue I thought would be fodder for the kinds of things I talk about here. Well, it didn't provide any fodder.

I picked it up Christmas morning, with the intention of reading a chapter or two in that little lull that always comes after the presents are opened. You've heard the cliche "I couldn't put it down"? Well, next thing I knew dinner was ready, and after eating I picked it right back up and finished it.

I had kind of assumed it would be another one of those libertarian fantasy novels. You know the kind, Montana secedes from the US; or a small band of people decide they won't take it any more and go off somewhere to found their own government; or a lone rebel plots to take down the system by finding and eliminating the few key people who keep it going, etc. I've taken to calling it "LibFic". So I thought this would be more of the same: a book from a fellow libertarian blogger whom I've had on my blogroll almost since I started this, and a book that was in a niche - a very narrow niche - that I like.

Turns out that it was a pretty mainstream corporate espionage novel, complete with a murder to be solved, a young, attractive and competent protagonist, and more than one opening for a sequel. It fits the genre that is popular today, (with dramatic but generic names like "Malice of Intent"), and as such is entertainment, not great literature. But it is a good story, and while it is not overtly libertarian (seems that Warren forgot to include the 70-page speech painfully "integrated" into the plot that outlines his entire philosphical edifice), it does have a refreshing libertarian sensibility that is usually absent from books in that genre.

Usually, the bad guys are the evil corporate CEO that can only make a profit by killing people to cover up his destruction of the environment, or the rich guy who kills everybody that stands in the way of his plans to sell arms to terrorists so that he can make a killing when the stock market collapses after the next attack. In BMOC, the bad guys are the media, the lawyer, and the Senator, who conspire to kill an innocent girl in order to gin up a lawsuit against the entrepreneur of whom she is a customer.

In the process, the book paints a picture of the media/legal/government complex that is as damning as the portrayals of the millitary/industrial complex, or the profit/oppression complex that is usual the root of all evil. Warren pulls this off without lengthy digressions to explain to us that this cabal exists, and why it is so bad. Instead, he just shows it in action, and each example serves not to "interrupt our plot for this important message", but to further the plot and to draw the characters.

In books today, we are bombarded with anti-capitalist and anti-individualist messages subtly woven into the plots and characters of our fiction. We are never told that we should see capitalists and individualists as the bad guys, authors just assume it and build the stories from there, and usually build very good stories. And so we never think to question those premises, but we absorb them nonetheless. The pro-capitalist and pro-individualist counter to this is usually to build a story designed explicitly to "prove" the opposite premise, and if it's a good story, well that's just a bonus.

Warren has taken the former approach, and it works. If he had marketed this to the mainstream, instead of to the libertarian niche, readers who don't know or care what a libertarian is would read it and absorb Warren's premises without ever getting the cue that they should be explicitly questioned. In that, it has the potential to be much more effective than most of the previous LibFic put together, with the happy side effect of being profitable, and thus self-sustaining.


Hmmm, that's funny, because the website I was at just before checking Bloglines and then popping on over here was Amazon, where I placed an order for a number of titles, including BMOC.

Now I'm looking forward more than ever,

Posted by Richard Nikoley at Sunday, December 31, 2006 02:09 PM

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